Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cruisin' for Oldies

The Nile Cruise wasn't all about lounging and eating (unfortunately?).  Every now and then we would drag ourselves off the boat to see some amazing ancient ruins.

Edfu Temple

Dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus, the Temple of Edfu was built in the Ptolemaic Period (the reign of Cleopatra and her ancestors) between 237 and 57 BC.  It is massive (the second-largest after Karnak) and one of the best preserved temples in Egypt.

Depictions of the Pharaoh in battle, with gods and goddesses above
Horus with Nebedchanezzer
(Neb kill!)
Speos of Horemheb

The Speos of Horemheb is a small chapel on the Nile built by the pharoah Horemheb.  What it lacked in wow factor, it more than made up for in peace and quiet.  Our small group were the only people there.

View of a cruise ship, from inside the Speos of Horemheb.
We were so glad they were not crammed in there with us!
Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo was also built during the reign of the Ptolemies, and is unusual because it consists of two duplicate temples - one for Sobek, the crocodile-headed god, and the other for Haroeris, the falcon-headed sky god.  In ancient times, sacred crocodiles were worshipped here, and a crocodile mummy museum is in the works.  There's also a Nile-o-meter at the temple, the ancient method for measuring the maximum height of the Nile during its annual flooding.  The height of the Nile determined the amount of taxes owed that year.

Kom Ombo is also known for being the temple to which Dave wore his traditional galeybia.
All the guards spoke to him Arabic and were shocked to discover he was from America.
Hany doin' his thang..

Looking down into the Nile-o-Meter.
No taxes this year, I guess.

Village Visits

We visited an Egyptian village and a Nubian village (Nubia is the area around the Sudanese border) during our six days on the Nile.  The Egyptian village was far less touristy and, as a consequence, far more dirty.  As we walked among piles of garbage, we found it difficult to understand how people could live surrounded by so much trash (clearly we had not yet been in India).  It's even more difficult to realize that for some people, the daily struggle for survival takes precedence over developing a system for hygienic garbage disposal.

Village kids
Trying out the water pump
The Nubian village was another story.  Surrounded by an endless tourist market and touts pushing camel rides, spices, and the usual plastic junk, the Nubian village visit offered a brief Arabic class (having already learned to write my name in Arabian, I was of course the teacher's pet), henna painting and the opportunity to hold a crocodile.  The effect of this commercialization was clear, though, with clean(ish) streets, a large well-maintained school, and houses that looked much more prosperous than those we'd seen before.

View of the Nubian village
The middle heart says Jesse & Dave
A grade-school primer on prayer
Ellen getting henna'd
My incredibly ugly henna, thank god Inshallah this only lasted about a week
Me and my new croc friend.
I was assured he had been recently fed.

Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam was built by President Nasser in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  Originally, funding for the dam was promised by the US and UK in exchange for Nasser's cooperation in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.  However, after the US and UK refused to provide Nasser with all the arms he requested (to use against Israel), he turned to the USSR for the weapons and for money, machinery and technical support in the construction of the dam.

In 1960 UNESCO undertook a major archeological rescue mission.  Teams of archaeologists dissembled dozens of ancient monuments that would be underwater once the dam was completed, and relocated them to higher, safer ground.  Other monuments were donated to countries that helped in the rescue effort, such as the Temple of Dendur in NY.

The High Dam was effective in controlling - actually, ending - the annual flooding of the Nile.  It has also been effective in reducing drought and keeping out the giant crocodiles and hippos that came with the flood and caused much death and destruction.  However, the creation of Lake Nasser - 5250 square kilometers large - meant that many monuments that were not saved are now underwater. The land along the banks of the Nile became arguably less arable as the flooding (which brought nutrient-rich silt) stopped.  And more importantly, 120,000 Sudanese and Egyptian people were relocated, their villages destroyed by the lake.

Here are a couple of horrible photos of the High Dam.  There really isn't much to see, but it was interesting to learn about.

On one side of the dam, the Nile.

On the other side, Lake Nasser
I'm not sure what this sign means exactly, but I love the last-minute addition of the "T"

Philae Temple

The Philae Temple was one of the lucky ones moved by UNESCO from its original site, now covered by Lake Nasser.  Dedicated to the goddess Isis, the temple includes various sanctuaries and shrines that relate to the Isis and Osiris myth (which involves Osiris being killed and dismembered, and Isis finding and using his penis - ancient Egyptian mythology is fun!), including a birthing room.  Later the temple was used by early Christians.

We took a motorboat over to the Temple,
simultaneously annoyed and entertained by young boys in rickety canoes
who would grab on to the boat (while desperately bailing out their own) and sing Frere Jacques for money.

When we arrived at the dock we were greeted by endless rows of souvenirs for sale...

...including these fashionable socks.

Oh yeah, here's a photo of the temple.

Kitchener's Gardens

This small island, in the middle of the Nile in Aswan, was granted to Lord Kitchener as a thank you for his service in the Sudan Campaign in the late 1890s.  He converted the island into a botanical gardens, full of trees, flowers and other plants from around the world.  It is a peaceful refuge from the heat, crowds and hassle of Aswan.

Shady paths.

Pretty flowers

There's even a museum displaying various seeds grown in the gardens,
with helpful descriptions such as "woody tree of good wood."


In our opinion, seeing these sights during the course of a five day Nile cruise is ideal - only visiting one or two a day prevents Ruin Restlessness.

All of our Nile Cruise photos are available here.

1 comment:

  1. you were lucky i wasn't there, dave- you would've been in a classical civilization coma.
    hey, j, now you have a croc photo to match your alligator photo! being up close, did you notice the similarities and differences between species? were they both as friendly?


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